Tag Archives: culture sharing

Celebrating Lunar New Year – 2022 Year of the Tiger

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in China. Tied to the Chinese lunar calendar, the holiday began as a time for feasting and honoring ancestors as well as deities. Lunar New Year celebrations begin on February 1st.

The year 2022 is slated to be the year of the tiger. The tiger is known as the king of all beasts in China and the zodiac is associated with strength and bravery.

Chinese people celebrate Lunar New Year with the traditional greeting, “Kung hei fat choi”  Sounds like (gung – hay – fah – choy) in Cantonese!

Lunar New Year covers a long span, not just one day. Two weeks is the typical time frame. Traditionally this time is used to celebrate with family and friends. It’s important to start the new year with a clean home. Red envelopes are handed out to others, typically children or young people, containing Lucky Money. Foods are important in the celebration and have meaning. Long noodle dishes, for instance, represent longevity or long life, while dumplings represent wealth. Interestingly, fortune cookies are not authentic Chinese treats, though enjoyable and fun, you can read more about their unique history here.

You can read more about Lunar New Year here.

Crafts, recipes, activities, and games related to Lunar New Year can be found on the APIA Winter Pinterest board. Try some of these great ideas!

Arts & Crafts:

Kids in the Kitchen:

Virtual Field Trips can be a great way for kids to learn and have new experiences. Here are a couple of virtual field trips that fit this theme:

Videos – Online you can find many examples of celebrations. Please review the content for appropriateness for your own host kids before watching with the children.

Webcams – You can do a google search for Lunar New Year celebrations with webcams. Here is a popular one for the upcoming season:

Books – Check out your local library or bookseller for books to order / reserve and pick up /read online:

Post Courtesy of Cynthia Chan (Au Pair in America)

Photo: Jimmie Quick 

Recipes, Crafts & Activities for Winter Fun

If you are looking for fun things to do with your host kids to celebrate the winter season, check out Au Pair in America on Pinterest. You’ll find recipes, crafts, games and winter traditions from a variety of countries to share with your host children.

If you have some fun winter traditions from your home country, share those with your host family. This beautiful season is a great time for culture sharing.

Winter Fun &  Winter Holidays

 

Surviving and Thriving in the Holiday Season

The fall/winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs. The pandemic will add its own complexities to the holiday season.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement.

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the number of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson

Hints for Success – Homesickness/Culture Shock

Almost everyone experiences culture shock and homesickness when they come to a completely new environment. Everything is different: the language, the food, and the people.

Here are my Top 5 Tips for
Dealing with Homesickness

1. Make friends – Don’t wait for other au pairs to reach out to you, reach out to them. There are other new au pairs who are feeling the same way you are right now. Set a goal to reach out to a few of them each day. Some will respond and some will not. Don’t let that discourage you. No one will ever be mad at you for sending them a message to say hello or ask if they want to do something together. Make friends from various countries and you will also get a chance to practice your English skills together.

2. Stay in touch with your home country, but not too much. Skyping or talking on the phone every day with your family and/or friends back home normally makes homesickness worse. Try texting instead and reduce the Skype and phone calls to once a week, until you feel stronger. It’s much harder seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those you miss.

3. Get out of the house (or your room specifically) – Go to cluster meetings, have coffee, go to the park, and/or go places with other au pairs. If someone invites you out, say “yes” whenever possible.* Also, don’t be afraid to do the inviting. If your host family invites you to do things with them, say “yes.” This will help you get to know each other and contribute to your overall happiness.

*Since we are in a pandemic, talk with your host family about what they are okay with you doing and what precautions you should take.

4. Share your culture with your host family – If you are missing some favorite foods from home, find ways that you can make them here and share them with your host family. There are many international markets in our area, you should be able to find most of the ingredients you need. If you are not really a cook, search online for restaurants and bakeries that have a taste of home. Your host family is probably just as excited to learn about your culture as you are to learn about America.

5. Make plans – Create your own Au Pair Bucket List (places you want to go, new foods to try, new things to experience during your year in the U.S.) and start doing them now. Post on our cluster Facebook or WhatsApp group to find others who may want to join you on your adventures.

Realize that it definitely gets easier with time.

All au pairs experience homesickness to some extent and nearly all of them stay and have a successful year (some stay for two years.) So, it must get better, right? Once you get past the initial homesickness, most au pairs report how quickly the year goes by.

Photo by:  Shimelle Laine (Flickr)

Five Thanksgiving Tips for Host Parents and Au Pairs

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Based on the Pilgrims’ harvest meal in 1621, Thanksgiving was proclaimed a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln during the 1860s. You can learn more about the holiday here.

Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday ~ one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing.

I really enjoyed Thanksgiving with my host family. It was as I imagined! So much food to try. Everyone got dressed up and shared what they were thankful for. It was so warm and special. The next day we began to prepare for Christmas. It was magical.” – Selina from Germany

Here are some tips to help you have a terrific Thanksgiving experience: 

Host Parents

1.  Please plan to include your au pair in your Thanksgiving celebration, if at all possible. Thanksgiving with an au pair offers an opportunity to consider the relevance of the history and meaning of Thanksgiving as you compare the hospitality offered by the Native Americans to the recently arrived Pilgrims and the hospitality you offer your au pair.

2.  If you are traveling or will not be able to invite your au pair to join you for Thanksgiving, give her plenty of notice and help her make alternate plans. You don’t want to leave your au pair alone over the holiday.

Au Pairs

3.  If you are invited to attend dinner, please let your family know within 5 days of the invitation, whether you are planning to attend. It is considered rude in America to accept the invitation for dinner and then change your mind later in the month. Please be thoughtful.

4.  Make sure to discuss time off during this holiday weekend. Many host families work the Friday after Thanksgiving so do not assume you have this day off or the entire weekend. Talk to your host family BEFORE you make any plans.

5.  If your host family is unable to include you in their Thanksgiving plans, please let me know if you have trouble making other plans. You may be able to join a friend and their host family for the holiday dinner.

Bonus Tip for the Kids

Click on this infographic to see a larger version.

If you are looking for a fun recipe to make with your au pair, check out these turkey cupcakes.

Find more fun activities and recipes on the Au Pair in America Fall Holidays pinboard.

5 Thanksgiving Tips for Au Pairs and Host Parents

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday, one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing. You can learn more about it hereContinue reading